Curiosity can be a powerful force for discovery, engagement, and learning. When we allow, or even nudge, ourselves to wonder, probe, and question, we can change the path of our thinking and open new doors to experience.
If we choose to capitalize on them, the beginning of a new school year can offer a myriad of new connections, new experiences, and new learning. Our curiosity can help us to see what we otherwise might ignore and learn what we might otherwise overlook. Our curiosity can help us to “ramp up,” encourage us to more carefully consider how the opening of the school experience affects everyone, whether starting new or returning. This creates a more successful and satisfying start.
Let’s consider five ways we can engage our curiosity to jump start the new year:
First, we might seek out staff members whom we do not know well and start a conversation about engagement activities they use to create connections and momentum in the first days of the year. In just a few conversations, we can gain access to an array of ideas and options upon which we can draw to build meaningful and memorable experiences with our students. Equally important is opening the possibility of forming new relationships. This helps to widen our professional network and strengthen our support system.
Second, we might informally survey colleagues to find at least one new useful strategy for organizing work that can save time and make our professional lives easier, while protecting learning processes. Challenges from the past two years forced us to find new ways to manage our tasks and time. As a result, we can learn more effective ways to share what we have developed and learned. Additionally, organizing tools and tasks for which students can take responsibility, and preparation and process shortcuts can be good places to probe. When we employ our curiosity in this direction, we gain access to innovative ideas and options. This also lends to renewing professional relationships and building bridges for future collaboration.
Third, we might seek out one or more of our most experienced, innovative, and effective colleagues and probe for new insights, ideas, and strategies they have developed to improve learning experiences and outcomes. We may discover they have learned and are perfecting the exact new strategy we need. Even better, they may be looking for someone with whom they can collaborate on further development. Furthermore, what we glean may not be new but may reveal new twists and applications from which our practice can benefit. Of course, our inquiry also communicates our respect for their work, a great message to send a colleague as a new year begins.
Fourth, we can set a goal to discover at least one thing about each of our students that makes them unique. Our search for what makes students unique also will assist our efforts to learn names and collect other information that can help us in our success with them. Of course, the search alone reinforces for us their individual worth and potential, plus each deserves unique recognition. Personal conversations, interviews, or a group activity lend to interesting information collection. Although, if we collect the information through a group activity, we need to follow up with students individually to confirm that we noted and value what they have shared. These student conversations create suitable places to begin forming relationships that grow in strength and influence throughout the year ahead.
Fifth, we can focus our curiosity on those elements and aspects of our work for which we are grateful. Our inquiry might open our eyes to meaningful experiences and relationships that energize us, carry us through tough times, and give us a sense of meaning and purpose. And although the opening of the new year can generate feelings of uncertainty and anxiety, it does present us with occasions to renew and reengage those aspects of our work that bring us satisfaction, pride, and happiness.
One of the unique aspects of teaching is that each year brings new opportunities and allows us to begin anew. By unleashing and engaging our curiosity, we can make the start of the new year even more promising, productive, and purposeful.